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Messer v. Astrue

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division at Convington

March 24, 2014

CHRISTINE MESSER, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., Senior Judge.

Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to challenge a final decision of the Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The Court having reviewed the record in this case and the dispositive motions filed by the parties, and being otherwise sufficiently advised, for the reasons set forth herein, finds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge is supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed her current application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits, alleging disability beginning on May 5, 1999. This application was denied initially and on reconsideration. On March 30, 2011, an administrative hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge Christopher McNeil (hereinafter "ALJ"), wherein Plaintiff, accompanied by counsel, testified. At the hearing, Donald Shrey, Ph.D., a vocational expert (hereinafter "VE"), also testified.

At the hearing, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ performed the following five-step sequential analysis in order to determine whether the Plaintiff was disabled:

Step 1: If the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled.
Step 2: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairment(s) must be severe before he can be found to be disabled based upon the requirements in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Step 3: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a severe impairment (or impairments) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairments (or impairments) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4, the claimant is disabled without further inquiry.
Step 4: If the claimant's impairment (or impairments) does not prevent him from doing his past relevant work, he is not disabled.
Step 5: Even if the claimant's impairment or impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates his residual functional capacity and vocational factors, he is not disabled.

Subsequently, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 22-32).

Plaintiff was thirty-five on the date of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 31, 106). Plaintiff has a ninth grade education and past relevant work experience as a cashier (Tr. 115, 122). Plaintiff alleges she is unable to work due to scoliosis, degenerative disc disease of her lumbar spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, atrophic right kidney, depression and anxiety, history of a MSRA infection, bilateral foot and ankle pain, restless leg syndrome, severe sleep apnea, obesity, hypertension and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The ALJ found Plaintiff had a combination of severe impairments, including degenerative changes in the lumbar spine, degenerative changes in the left ankle/foot, depressive disorder, panic disorder, pain disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning (Tr. 25); however, she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled one of the listed impairments at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, including Listing 1.04(A) (Tr. 28, ). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform medium work activity, with the following additional limitations: she can push or pull 50 pounds frequently, 25 pounds occasionally with hand or foot controls; stand or walk about six hours and sit about six hours in an eight-hour day; cannot climb ladders, ropes or stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; must avoid concentrated exposure to hand-held vibrating tools and whole body exposure to vibration (Tr. 29). Due to mental impairments, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following mental limitations: understand and remember simple instructions; sustain attention to complete simple repetitive tasks where production quotas are not critical; tolerate co-workers and supervisors with limited interpersonal demands in an object-focused nonpublic work setting; and adapt to routine changes in a simple work setting (Tr. 29). Given this RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff would be unable to return to her past relevant work (Tr. 31). Relying on vocational expert (VE) testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy (Tr. 31-32). As a result, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 32).

The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff s request for review and adopted the ALl's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff thereafter filed this civil action seeking a reversal of the Commissioner's decision. Both parties have filed ...


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